Rio Tinto Mends Relationship With PKKP

Rio Tinto and the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people (PKKP) have taken initial steps in rebuilding their relationship following the destruction of historic sites at Juukan Gorge in May 2020. PKKP in cooperation with Rio Tinto have been involved in remedial works at Juukan Gorge. And Rio Tinto said these works will continue.

Rio Tinto said, “While there has been some important progress made in the relationship so far, we are not underestimating the time it will take to genuinely work together and achieve the mutual objectives of this partnership.” PKKP said it is encouraged by the steps to date, but they are the fi rst of many that will be needed to ensure the avoidable and unnecessary destruction of cultural heritage sites, like Juukan Gorge, will never be repeated. Kurrama Elder Burchell Hayes said, “While we have made some initial positive steps in rebuilding our relationship there is so much more we need to do in order to shape a shared future for our next generations of PKKP people working with Rio Tinto.”

Acting chief executive of Rio Tinto Iron Ore, Ivan Vella, said, “We know we have a lot of work to do in order to rebuild trust and confi dence in our business. I look forward to continuing the work with PKKP Traditional Owners to re-chart our partnership and build a shared future.”

A mining moratorium has been extended around the Juukan Gorge and a purpose-built facility is being established to store artifacts discovered during heritage preservation works.

Rio Tinto has also introduced changes to ensure heritage sites of exceptional signifi cance, like the Juukan Gorge rock shelters, are protected and preserved.

These include:
• Reassessing any activities that have the potential to impact heritage sites, with an immediate focus on locations that could be impacted over the next 18 to 24 months. Monitoring of operational impacts has also been increased.
• Executive accountability for impacts to heritage sites where avoidance is not possible.
• A commitment to modernize agreements with traditional owners.
• Creation of a new standalone Communities and Social Performance Area of Expertise, which is aligned with the existing Health, Safety, Environment (HSE) functions.
• A $50 million investment to increase employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians through business and enhance Indigenous leadership in our Australian operations.
• The creation of a new role, appointing a senior Indigenous leader as chief advisor, Indigenous Affairs, who has a direct reporting line to the chief executive.
• Ongoing consultation with traditional owners about a proposal to establish an indigenous advisory group to help the company better incorporate traditional owners’ views and concerns into its operations.

As featured in Womp 2021 Vol 01 -